HALIFAX - After Millersburg defeated Tri-Valley League opponent Greenwood twice during the regular season, the Indians might have thought they had the Wildcats' number.
But on Wednesday, during the District 3 Class A championship game, all such thoughts were erased.
The Wildcats put away the Indians 13-3 in five innings for the win, notching their fifth-straight district title and punching their ticket to the state tournament, in which they will face the winner of the District 5 championship game between Rockwood and charter school Hope for Hyndman.
Unfortunately for Millersburg, both dugouts contributed to the Wildcats' victory, as 10 walks between Millersburg's three pitchers and two Indian errors on the field gave Greenwood ample opportunity to put up the numbers. However, that's not to take the credit away from the Wildcats, who relied on continued success from freshman pitcher Brooke Louden and timely hits to put the game away.
Through the first two innings, the momentum was squarely in Millersburgs' possession, as starting pitcher Marlo Roadcap kept Greenwoods' batters baffled. The tall lefty had a high-velocity pitch the Wildcats couldn't catch up with, and four the first six Greenwood outs were strikeouts.
This discord at the plate may have also leached into the Wildcats' defensive game, as the Indians scored one in the bottom of the first on a fly ball to right field that, had the ball been fielded cleanly, would have resulted in a close play at home; scored a second run the next inning as a result of a wild pitch; and a third in the same inning on a questionable call when Greenwood's Becca Stalvey tracked a ball deep into left field for a beautiful catch, but the runner from third was called safe at home despite failing to tag up.
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* Greenwood will play the District 5 champion Monday
But if there's one thing the Wildcats have been doing all season, it's recovering from bumps in the road, and that's exactly what they did in the top of the third.
Down 3-0, the Wildcats kept their cool despite the deficit, and it paid off in a big way when a few missed pitches put Roadcap in a tailspin. After recording the first strikeout of the inning, Roadcap fell apart when in the next four at bats she gave up a single to Amy Heggenstaller and walked three to give the Wildcats their first run of the game. The lefty was beginning to unravel, and Greenwood's Chelsea Hick took advantage, putting one in the gap in left center for a three-RBI triple that gave Greenwood the 4-3 lead.
Hicks then reached home when an overthrow at first from a Rachel Stroup bunt put the score at 5-3.
"I thought the girls were working the count well - they got deep in the count with the pitcher a number of times; drew some walks with some great at bats - and then we came up with some timely hits when we needed them, and that's what it's all about," Greenwood coach Troy Gantt said.
But if the Wildcats had shown their ability to get the timely hit in the third, they showed their ability to put the game away in the fifth.
In an inning highlighted by a scorcher up the left field line by Heggenstaller that not only placed her at second but brought home three of her teammates, Greenwood plated eight runs for the final 13-3 score.
In the fifth, four different Wildcats saw two at bats, Greenwood notched four of its six hits, and a slew of walks from Millersburgs' Taryn Herb and Brooke Shomper resulted in the big inning for Greenwood.
After Roadcap's rough third inning, she was pulled for Herb, but it might not have taken long for Millersburg to regret the choice. Between Herb and Shomper - both of whom pitched in the fifth - one Wildcat scored on a wild pitch, Brittany Fleisher and Stavely each earned RBIs the easy way watching four balls go by, Rachel Stroup and Louden brought in runs with their singles and Heggenstaller brought in three with her double to round out Greenwood's scoring.
"It's a great feeling. I'm very proud of the girls," Gantt said, speaking of the team's return to the state tournament. He was also complimentary of Louden, who struck out five and allowed just four hits in the contest.
In the first inning Louden had a bit of a rough start, as she hit leadoff batter Kayla Snyder, who later scored for the Millersburg lead. However, as the game progressed Louden settled in, and strong defensive plays such as Stalvey's catch in left field and continued success at third base from Katie Osborne and Brittany Fleisher at short kept the Indians at bay.
Before the game began Millersburg's record was at 12-6 verses Greenwood's 7-11, but record books didn't appear to be a factor in Wednesday's win, and Gantt didn't think they were much of a factor in his team's fifth-straight title, either.
"It's a matter of getting better throughout the season, and I think this team more so than any other team I've had has done that. You get hot at the right time, you catch a little bit of confidence, you catch a break here and there and that's the way things worked here late this season. You know, records go out the window."